- Since records began in 1998, 800 children have now died in hot cars, according to Golden Gate Weather Services.
- A young boy in Minnesota became number 800 when he was found dead this past weekend after being left in a hot car for hours.
- Kids and Cars.org says, on average, 38 children die from heat-related deaths after being trapped in vehicles each year in the United States.
Hot cars have now claimed the lives of 800 children over the past 21 years, with the most recent casualty happening this past weekend when a four-year-old boy in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was found dead after his dad left him in an SUV for several hours. The weather service reporting this tragedy noted that outside temperature only reached 71 degrees, underlining the fact that the inside of a vehicle can become dangerously hot even in milder weather.
The sad list of deaths began in 1998 when pediatric vehicular heat-stroke deaths started being recorded, according to Golden Gate Weather Services, a private meteorology firm in California.
While the agency states that 54 percent of the 795 cases during that time have been caused by a parent or caregiver who forgot the child was in the car, the two other main circumstances it lists have included children who gained access to a vehicle on their own (26.3 percent) and those who were knowingly left by a caregiver (18.9 percent).
In 2018 in the U.S., a record 52 children died from being trapped in a hot vehicle, according to the Kids and Cars website. The year before, the number was 43. The national average of vehicular heat-stroke deaths per year is 38—or one every nine days. The organization already lists five deaths in 2019, with all of them happening since April 4.
The California-based meteorology firm says July is often the deadliest month, and it says the number of children who have died due to vehicular heatstroke has dramatically increased since the mid-1990s.
So, how do some parents leave their children behind in hot cars? Kids and Cars cites a study by David Diamond, a psychology professor at the University of South Florida. In short, he blames it on the failure of “prospective memory,” which is used to describe when the brain remembers to do something in the future. The study attributes this failure on many factors that commonly affect parents, including stress, multitasking, interruptions, sleep deprivation, and more.
Diamond suggests that automakers should add safeguards to help remind parents about children in the back seat. While rear-seat reminders are already available on many newer General Motors products as well as vehicles from Nissan and select 2019 Hyundai models, many older vehicles are not equipped with such technology. As a result, parents should be extra vigilant when warmer weather strikes to make sure their children don’t become a statistic.